“Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.”
Life of Pi
Thanks to Tiger King, there’s been a lot of tiger talk on the socials lately. How about a tiger story that isn’t full of smarmy scumbags? This blog will have a different tone that most of mine because I love this book and have nothing snarky to say about it.
Life of Pi is one of my favorite books. As someone who reads, on average, sixty books a year, for the last few decades, that’s saying something. I first read Life of Pi about ten years ago. It stuck with me and, when it was my turn to pick our next book club read, I went with Pi. I’d been hankering for a reread and it seemed like the perfect chance.
So, what is so great about this book?
Well, Pi. Pi Patel is an adorable young man. Born and raised in India, he grew up in the family zoo. He’s an interesting boy, a practicing Hindu, Catholic, and Muslim.
The Patels set out for a new life in Canada, selling or trading some of their animals, and taking some with them. The boat ride does not go as planned. The ship sinks, and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with an injured zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a full grown Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Despite the overlying story arc being somber, this book is also hilarious. There’s a moment where Orange Juice, the orangutan, goes floating by on a pile of bananas. Another moment where Pi is screaming at Richard Parker to “Swim, Richard Parker, swim!” followed by a “Drown, Richard Parker, drown.” Pi Patel is inherently funny and what the hell isn’t funny about a tiger named Richard Parker?
So, a boy on a lifeboat with a pack of mix matched wild animals. What could go wrong?
Turns out, a lot. It’s a sad tale about a lonely boy doing the best he can under terrible circumstances. Dehydration, isolation, battling the elements, grief. Pi Patel has a lot going on, a lot to make a person give up. But Pi also has religion, several of them. He leans heavy on those religions while lost at sea. As a person who is decidedly not religious, this book made me think about some things, evaluate a few things. I do practice yoga, so the Hindu parts of the story really spoke to me in a way they didn’t the first time I read the book. Pi’s take on religion and how these three seemingly different practices have more in common than one would initially think.
The ending of the book is perfect. Martel does that thing where he lets the reader decide what they want to believe. The unbelievable tale of a young man surviving 227 days at sea, or the unbelievable tale of a young man surviving 227 days at sea in the company of a 450 pound Bengal tiger.
This book is beautiful and good for the soul.